Directing a Cast of Hundreds

Teacher Recounts 2009 WLC® DVD Taping

Paul Olson conducts Boise, Idaho students in a segment for the WLC DVD.

Paul Olson, choir director at West Junior High School in Boise, Idaho, was elated to hear that MENC would once again produce the World’s Largest Concert® (WLC®) in 2009.

He was even more pleased that his proposal to tape a performance by Boise students for the WLC DVD was accepted. He worked with many of the Boise School District’s music teachers as well as district music coordinator Roger Lingle to produce the segment.

“(The WLC) is a great ‘PR’ event for us. I include my elementary feeders and sing together and that’s always a good thing. Happily the WLC is back,” Olson said.

Olson said the student’s favorite song to perform was “J’entends le Moulin,” about a working windmill. The staging for the song involved students lining up on the field to spell out the word “Boise.”

The 2009 WLC sing-along event, a highlight of Music In Our Schools Month®, will be March 12, 2009, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time. In addition to “J’entends le Moulin/I Hear the Windmill,” the 2009 concert program includes “An American Song,” “Ev’rybody Say Peace,” “Follow the Drinking Gourd,” “I’ll Make the Difference,” “It’s Our World,” “The Star Spangled Banner,” “There’s Magic in the Music,” and “Ulili E/The Sandpiper.”

Here are some additional questions and answers from the interview with Olson:

Q: The photos look as if the taping was quite an undertaking. What stadium did you film in?
A: We were in Bronco Stadium on the campus of Boise State (Idaho) University. Their “Blue Thunder Marching” lent us their podium. The BSU folks were very nice to turn on the lights since we couldn’t record during the middle of the day. It was a cold and rainy day. There had been a shower an hour earlier that made parts of the field sparkle wet. Didn’t rain on us but the wind made it feel cooler. Many of these kids had never been to the stadium, no less get to stand out on the blue turf. Most were giddy with excitement.

Our music coordinator for the district, Roger Lingle, had the megaphone up in the stands and relayed suggestions for fixing the spacing down to me. I had a mic and blasted out suggestions to the teachers on the field. Capital High School has quite the video program and they used two cameras in various positions to record. I played the CD from my podium through my sound system.


Boise students enjoyed the taping at the football stadium.


Q: What song did your students perform and what was your biggest challenge in staging it ?
A: Their favorite was “J’entends le Moulin,” about a working windmill. The high school our school feeds into provided the pinwheel for the center of the “O” with blue table clothes I had made for a choir concert reception a few years ago. One of our high school band directors charted out the letters B O I S E with a code for each school and their letter. When a few kids couldn’t make it, we had to improvise and move some kids around. There were so many kids that the letters had to be bigger than the cameras could take in end to end. So we squeezed the letters from the 20-yard lines to the 25 yard lines. The “O” couldn’t squeeze because of the windmill inside so the “O” looks oversized.”


In Boise, students create a windmill inside the giant “O.”

Q: Do you have your school participate in the WLC each year?

A: This is our 4th or 5th WLC participation. We do it every couple of years or so. To advertise the WLC we have Channel 7 News come out at 5:00 in morning and we gather and sing the songs “on the 7’s”.
Every ten minutes they go to their remote weatherman in the field for an update. We make sure we’re singing every time he goes on the air from our gym or choir room. The kids have to be there dressed and ready by 5:00 am. But it’s fun if the parents catch a glimpse of their kid on TV. Every half hour they interview someone, either myself, the principal, music coordinator or superintendent.

Q: Approximately how many students participated? Do you have several choirs, or were there other students involved, too?
A. We had over 500 kids from 3 junior highs, 4 elementaries and 1 high school.

Roz Fehr, February 11, 2009. © MENC: The National Association for Music Education.